LIMA — Fran and Jim Mauk, of Lima, are filled with gratitude. They both survived a home explosion and are reaping the benefit of seeing strangers’ kindness and generosity in helping them.
“We are just very glad to be alive,” said Jim. “We were very fortunate. We had the investigators come in and talk to us trying to find out what happened and asking all kinds of questions. They said ‘we don’t normally get to do this because people don’t make it.”
October 23, 2017, will most likely be forever etched in both Fran and Jim’s minds, as well as the minds of their son Scott and daughter Amy. That was the day their house located at 4230 Slabtown Road exploded. Both Fran and Jim were trapped. It took firefighters almost an hour to dig through the debris to extricate them and take them to the hospital.
Jim was blown from the front bedroom of the house out onto what would have been the front porch, partially landing on the air-conditioning unit.
“I don’t know what happened, but I know I turned the light switch on in the bedroom. It must have been a build up of gas, there was an immediate spark from the switch and BOOM. It blew me 16 feet from where the light switch was to the outside of the house. I could see the blue sky,” said Jim.
His wife, Fran, was at the opposite side of the house sitting at their dining room table reading.
“I was doing what I do every morning, reading my Bible and my devotional and he walked out from the sun-room and he walked into the bedroom. And then I don’t remember anything,” said Fran.
Once Fran became conscious, she realized she was in the basement of the house.
“I didn’t wake up until after I could see the rescue guys high above me. As a matter of fact I said to them, ‘What are you guys doing up there?’ I still did not know what happened. Jim, on the other hand, he remembers everything,” said Fran. “For some reason I didn’t blow out the windows behind me. The explosion blew him out, it pushed me down into the basement. I believe with all my heart it was the hand of God because He put that table over my head and protected me from all that debris.”
Both of the Mauk’s were taken to Lima Memorial Health System where they were listed as critical.
Fran suffered a fractured right hip and a subarachnoid bleed.
“The back of my brain was bleeding from a head injury,” said Fran. “It was clear it was from the dining room table. They took CAT scans before surgery, because you can’t be bleeding in your brain and go to surgery, it’s not wise. It had stopped. I had surgery on my fractured hip, they put a rod in there. I have eight to 12 weeks for recovery is what they told me.”
Jim suffered more severe and numerous injuries.
“I had on my left leg a compound tibia and compound fibula fractures. There was a lot of carpet and stuff that was in there and they wanted to get it cleaned out. That’s why I had so many surgeries on that. That was the last one they completed. My right leg I had a compound femur fracture, my left wrist has two pins put in that, I had a scapula or shoulder blade fractured, and 12 ribs that were fractured. I also had three vertebrae fractured,” said Jim.
Mauk feels his back surgery he had a while back where he had two rods and 16 screws inserted may have helped his back.
“I got bruises on my head too from flying through the air,” said Mauk.
Once the couple were stabilized, they were placed in the same room at Lima Memorial Health System.
“They put us in the same room which was nice. She was worried about me and I was worried about her,” said Jim.
“We had to be together. We had to see each other,” said Fran.
The couple applaud the effort of the numerous nurses, therapists and physicians at the hospital.
“They took care of us. Very good nurses and physical therapists and doctors,” said Jim.
Other members of the community, church and even strangers have helped.
“People have just been so gracious. One of my friends went to her beautician and told her about us and the beautician said ‘I sell Tupperware, I’ve got a ton.’ So they gave me stuff. Even the people you don’t know are willing to help you or at least show that they care. I have gotten so many cards, we both have, and it’s the church family and all over the country churches have been praying for us. We can’t express enough gratitude for that,” said Fran.
Fran was the first of the couple to be released. She was released from the hospital on November 15. Jim followed approximately two weeks later, being released on December 1st. They are staying at their daughter’s home.
“Our kids have been wonderful, rock solid taking care of details that we couldn’t handle. Amy took both of her parents in. Now that’s a lot. She organized people to come stay with us. Those are important things to us. I did try to talk her out of it. She said you can talk all you want to mom, it’s done,” said Fran.
The Mauk’s lives have been easier thanks in part to donations of equipment to help them in their time of need.
“We have all kinds of equipment, shower chairs and walkers. Most of it we didn’t rent or pay for. One of the physical therapists had this walker at home and told me to try it,” said Fran.
Amy and her brother Scott were able to walk around the outside of the house to recover some items for their parents.
“We have been told with the investigation we can’t get in the house. It’s unsafe. My brother and I could walk outside the house,” said Amy.
They found their dad’s wallet with all of this identification in it. They were unable to locate their mom’s at this point.
“Things can be rebuilt and stuff can be replace, but lives can’t,” said Jim. “There are a couple of things I hope we can find. My dad was in the military in WWII, and he had a military funeral and since I was the oldest boy I got the flag and it’s encased in the container I had made for it. I hope its okay. I have an old pistol that my grandfather took with him when he was 16 years old out West with a couple of other guys. He took it with him for protection. It’s 100+ years old. My grandfather died when I was 14. It’s nothing special, not worth any money, but it was my grandfather’s. I would like to keep it in the family.”
The Mauk’s were in the process of building a grandparent suite at Amy’s house. The building project started in June of 2017 and is near completion.
“My nephew and niece were buying my place. They approached me, knowing we were building [here] and going to sell it. They wanted to stay in this area, so they asked me about it. They made me a good offer and then this happened. They just had a little girl, but if the building project had been on time over here, they would have been moved in. If that would have happened it would have broken me up. God has his hand on it,” said Jim.
His sentiments were echoed by Fran.
“It could have been a lot worse. We couldn’t have lived with ourselves if our nephew and his wife had been killed,” said Fran.
Reach Merri Hanjora at 567-242-0511.